Have just concluded a fascinating assignment, technically speaking: the same 2-hour long presentation on tax administration issues, given by the same two speakers to successive groups of 50 participants, over three full days + two half-days, ie a total of THIRTEEN such instances, interpreted from a bi-active triple booth.
I had had previous repeat performances, but never these many and this close, and was thus fascinated and educated this time round, from one session to the next,by
so much so that I wondered why such an approach, ie let us learn from doing, pondering and experimenting in the framework of repeat performances, was not regularly used in training courses, from scratch or refresher, with the added benefit of expert critique.
Here are just three (associative) thoughts triggered by your question (and thanks for keeping it so open since I think there is a long tail of unchartered research territory behind it):
Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes. I think that a frequently underestimated part of becoming a good conference interpreter is becoming desensitized to the conference environment itself, which allows you to focus on the actual work and hence do a better job.
answered 17 Apr '12, 11:22
It's an interesting point you've raised. Here's my take on it:
1) Training: We sometimes use repetition in training at the Master's course where I teach. For instance, we might have students take notes and do consec from a speech, and then go into the booth and do the same speech in simultaneous immediately afterwards. Or we will take speeches done in consec class the previous week and use them again for simultaneous class. Or even have them do two simultaneous versions of the same speech back-to-back.
The idea of using repetition in the training context is to create a situation where students are familiar with the material and so can focus more on the technique and less on absorbing information. Of course, since the speeches are delivered live each time, you never get 100% identical versions, as you would if you were working with recordings in training.
2) Professional practice: I have to deal with repetition in real life as well. I have one client who often holds two versions of the same meeting spaced a few months apart. The agenda is identical, as are the presentations and the people at the top table (not to mention the interpreters). Only the national delegates are different. In each case, I found that having worked at what was basically the same meeting a few months previously helped me the second time around.
Here's another one: In successive jobs with one client, I have heard the same keynote-type presentation given by the same individual at the same type of meeting about 8 or 10 times over the past few years. The only difference is that each time, it's to a different audience. Do I do a better job each time around? I hope I do! There's a bit about chainsaws in the middle, and the first time around, it caught me off guard ("did he really say chainsaws?"), but these days, I can tell when the chainsaw bit is coming... I like the speech so much, I ask to do it, even when it's not officially my turn ;).
You'll find a similar situation happens with any client who hires the same interpreters for regular meetings (annual conferences, quarterly shareholders meetings, even the European Parliament plenary weeks, whatever). The client gets a better service because the interpreters draw on their familiarity with the subject matter.
3) Now to research: Interestingly, some of the ground-breaking work done by Daniel Gile when he was developing his Effort Model showed that the same professional interpreters doing the same speech twice back-to-back would make roughly the same number of mistakes each time, only in different places (!). So maybe our gut feeling that repetition leads to improved performance is not entirely borne out by the evidence.
answered 18 Apr '12, 10:45
I remember that repetition was a large part of my training. Our instructors would have us do a speech in the booth in class, we would critique it there, and then we would take the recording of the original speech home with us and practice it at least 30 times over the next week, changing as much as possible with every rendition. We would vary grammatical constructions, vocabulary, anything we possibly could, trying as much as possible not to stick with anything from one rendition to the next. Of course, that would be the first thing we did in class the next week, before doing a new speech.
The exercise made it slightly more difficult to hear something new for the first time in the beginning, but later on it made us grow in flexibility, so that we felt that whatever was thrown at us, however we started our sentences, we were flexible enough to finish without backtracking, and could always find a way around difficult source sentence structures and locutions.
It sounds, from your experience, that the exercise would be even more interesting in a team, as you could collectively decide what would bring the most value to the new rendition. Fascinating!
answered 23 Jun '14, 17:17
Definitely, facing a situation by the first time carries a lot of stress. As interpreters we face a battle between time, nerves and words. Repeating an interpreting task several times provides opportunities to rethink our performance in a more relaxed condition.
As stress decreases, our attention improves and so we are able to freely focus on the speaker and his discourse. Such concentration leads us to changes and new considerations. Every time we repeat a session, we notice something that could be said in a clearer way or we introduce a new word or expression which clarifies the message. In time we learn to predict and associate previous responses to similar situations.
Moreover, If an external feedback is provided by a colleague it enhances our possibility for self-improvement. Repeating sessions is equal to stop repeating errors.
answered 18 Jun '14, 22:01
I think the answers above go to show that repetition is used systematically by quite a few teachers and that it can be used to highlight or work on different parts of the interpreting skill. I've been using and recommending repeat interpreting of the same speech (or a very similar version given by the same speaker from the same notes) for almost as long as I've been teaching. Initially I saw it as a way of focussing on delivery (as here in 2001) but as I say, now I think teachers and students can use it to work on a variety of interpreting subskills - eg. chunking and short-term memory, reformulation, highlighting how general knowledge (or lack of it) affects our reformulation, delivery, anticipation.
Repetition, in a very broad sense, is a miniature, focussed version of experience. So yes it certainly helps. I can recall two things experienced colleagues related to me when I was relatively new to the profession that I've never forgotten, and which are also partly answers to your question...
My mother always repeated: "Repetition is the mother of knowledge - you must remember it". I am grateful to my mother.
Thanks to repetition in any educational training we develop our knowledge and skills - so we learn. I personally can said repeating again and again or writing again and again or read again and again until I was satisfied with the result. The benefits after this training will be huge. It is my opinion and is my way for learn languages. I do not know any other way which can give better results.
By use systematically repetition will affect positive in our interpreting skill. Looking into the past and remember when I’ve been using Dictaphone with repeater capability. I slept with earphones and listen to pronunciation of difficult words all night long. Because I studied two languages with different alphabets at the same time (English and Greek). It was really difficult, because none of these languages was not with the alphabet in my mother tongue (Bulgarian). I had weak moments and then I repeat that "I can" and "Do it." I never forget the words of my mother that I should repeat while I learn. I never set big goals, but thanks to the repetition and learning as a result of this repetition now I'm here and write my opinion in this discussion.
Finally I would like to say that I love languages and I think that whatever we do has to do with many love only then will have best results. So, does repetition make us better interpreters? I think that only repetition as act - no, but repetition with love - yes.
answered 23 Jun '15, 15:21